SRHA’s Harrison receives awardPublished 9:30pm Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Phyllis Harrison started in housing as a volunteer grant writer more than 44 years ago.
As the resident services specialist at Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, she helps Housing Choice Voucher Program residents work toward becoming self-sufficient.
It’s rewarding work, she says, and not just because of the 2014 Mountain Mover Commitment to Service Award that she recently received from the Virginia Association of Housing Counselors.
“It was really a shock to me,” she said of the award.
It was especially shocking, because she was on the committee to pick the recipient of the award. But, she said, “I was so busy that I wasn’t really aware that I was being left out of a lot of stuff.”
After being born and raised in Bertie County, N.C., Harrison moved to New York as soon as she graduated from high school. She had been on frequent trips to the city throughout her childhood to visit her father’s family and loved it, she said.
After stints in banking, corrections and retail in New York, she met a woman who was writing grants for a senior program and started volunteering with her.
Before she knew it, she was working as the program coordinator for elderly housing residents. After moving almost all the way home, to Suffolk, 18 years ago, she took a position as a drug elimination coordinator with the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
Since then her title has changed several times as she focused on family investment and family self-sufficiency. She now is the resident services specialist.
She works with residents to make goals that increase their self-sufficiency, whether they include finding employment, furthering their education or fixing their credit.
“Once they achieve their goals, it is very rewarding to me,” Harrison said.
She knows first-hand how difficult it is to go back to school after becoming an adult. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology, with an emphasis in business, from the College of New Rochelle. She also has about 12 credits left to do on her master’s degree from Old Dominion University in urban studies with an emphasis in community services.
Even though her position doesn’t pay much, Harrison said she gets paid in less tangible ways.
“I get my rewards and my pay by knowing my participant has achieved a goal,” she said. “It’s worth more to me than money.”
Harrison said she appreciated the recognition from her superiors who nominated her for the award. She lives in Portsmouth with her husband, Cameral Harrison, and has six children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.